Ask entrepreneurs about their business and they will refer to their company as their “baby.” Why? Because they are emotionally invested in it; they care about it, they are passionate about it, and want it to grow up and be successful. The ties between an owner and a company can be similar to parenthood. While many of our mothers and grandmothers were primarily caretakers, more women today are at the helm of companies or even launching their own business. Whether or not we have a lot of professional experience in our past, motherhood prepares women for being great business leaders.
I often get asked – “How do you juggle it all?” How can you train for a marathon, run a business and get your kids to school on time, put food on the dinner table (albeit healthy food!) and still manage to find time for some afternoon yoga? The short answer is that I follow two important rules: 1) I try to get 7-8 hours of sleep per night and 2) I make several lists and prioritize tasks. While others marvel at the talent of accomplishing a lot, I have several friends and peers that in their own way also seem to “juggle it all,” and most of them are mothers. Mothers have a special bond and understanding in that we are capable of squeezing in a workout, feeding a family, preparing lunches for kids, finding missing shin guards, taking a business call and getting kids off to school all before 8am. This is “a normal” for us. It’s these same characteristics that also help us be great businesswomen. Below are a few lessons that motherhood has taught me (and many women), which we apply to our role as business leaders on a daily basis:
In raising children, we deal with disagreements and discipline everyday. We break-up fights, we teach our kids to respect, love and hug and tell them that they are the only brothers (or sisters) that they will ever have in their lives. So do this as a team. Find strengths amongst the corporate team, have everyone focus on what they do best and encourage teamwork as much as possible.
Our children teach us patience. From waiting out the 9 months of pregnancy to taking the extra minutes to wait for your 4-year old to tie his shoe (because that’s what’s important), it’s the same lesson of patience we follow for when it comes to training and teaching new team members. Can we do it better? Likely yes, but if you let others practice and continue to teach them, they soon will be almost as good as you (and might even teach you a thing or to) at their new task. I think of sports and skiing, slowly following my son down the mountain on his second day out and then one year later, he’s beginning to call me a “slow poke.” Before I know it, he’ll be flying by be on the mogul runs. In business, I have team members that can run social media circles around me and/or organize spreadsheets more effectively because of the initial building blocks I established for them.
Face to Face Interaction:
My husband once had a disagreement with a business associate and the business associate ignored him, wouldn’t take his calls and would even go out of his way to ignore him. Our 7 year old said to my husband, “Why aren’t you friends with him anymore?” My husband replied, “Well, because he doesn’t like papa anymore.” My son said, “Well, that’s kind of sad. Why don’t you go over to his house and ask him if he wants to be your friend again?” My son didn’t ask my husband to text message John, rather he asked him to go to his house and meet him in person. Face to face conversations is what young kids know before they are exposed to too much technology. At the end of the day, the best relationships and the best conversations happen “live,” face to face, eye to eye. Relationships are very important. Invest time into people and getting to know them. Don’t make it all about you. Relationships are the most important and part of success and happiness and good business. A disagreement is not resolved over email, rather, in person or via phone if geography is a challenge.
As mothers, we try to listen as much as we can. I constantly take privileges away from my kids for “not listening” and we routinely hear teachers talk about “being good listeners.” When we listen, we can better understand what team members need. And don’t just “hear,” but truly listen, and have conversations that incorporate everyone’s work ideas.
When there is something to be built, a Lego castle, a puzzle or even a meal where we need to follow cookbook instructions, we simplify. I’ve learned to apply this to business challenges. Take the large challenge and break it up into simple steps. For example, when faced with task for creating an overarching marketing plan, you can start with questions such as, “Who is our audience and Who do we need to get product in front of?” Or, “What problem does product or service solve?” When dealing with our kids, we automatically simplify when it comes to following instructions – there is almost always a “Step 1.”
Everything is a negotiation. If you eat your peas, you get a cookie. “So how many peas do I need to eat to get two cookies?” Or if you behave really well at Sunday church, you’ll get donuts afterwards. Compromise and negotiation is just as common and important in business. Ultimately, both parties should feel satisfied with the final terms.
From managing personalities to managing projects, being a parent prepares you well to be flexible and ready for whatever life and business throws at you. As mothers, we know how to multi-task but and be efficient but at the end of day, it’s about combining several of the characteristic above to empower our kids and business colleagues to be the best they can be and setting the ego aside. Mothers and good leaders tend to give more than receive. They empower their children and their team members to grow, be it at the boardroom or in the playroom.
Working Girl, 1988. It's a beloved little comedy centering on Tess McGill (Melanie Griffith), new to the cutthroat business world and secretary to Katharine Parker (Sigourney Weaver). When Katherine steals a tip from Tess to further ascend the corporate ladder, Tess "borrows" Katherine's identity to regain what is rightfully hers. The movie closes with Tess winning the showdown while a scorned Katherine fades into irrelevance with her tail between her legs. Oh, and Tess also manages to steal Katherine's boyfriend along the way. It is a heartwarming tale about two women battling for a seat at the boys' table that just so happens to be written by a man.
Pop culture, literature and real-world anecdotes have been telling us for decades that women are in competition with one another. The mythos surrounding Corporate America says that everything is dog eat dog, which often translates to woman versus woman. This, unfortunately, is not entirely untrue and is likely due to the fact there are so few seats available at the countless tables where women rightfully belong but are conspicuously absent from. It's a grueling climb to the top, and it seems like every woman for herself along the way. As of this year, women hold 6.6% of Fortune 500 CEO roles. That does not occur by happenstance; it is systemic. But we at VIPER want to have a hand in changing this.
VIPER is an all-female nightlife team in Los Angeles. We're no strangers to the occasionally nuanced, but more often blatant, patriarchal paradigms of working in a world that was built for men. Because of this, we understand and embrace the idea of collective evolution: leaving doors open for women wherever we can. From the beginning, we knew that we wanted our company's principles and culture to be unmistakably female-focused; it has never been a gimmick for us. As Co-CEOs and founders of VIPER (born under our parent company KCH Group), not only do we look to leave doors of opportunities open, we also work to empower the individuals who will eventually walk through them. While we are highly selective of who we employ, the number one characteristic we search for in a potential VIPER Girl is enthusiasm. There is so much room for growth, independence and creativity in our company; we seek out the people who will be inspired by the environment we strive to cultivate. This is why we never want our VIPER Girls to feel they've been simply "hired." We want them to feel brought into the fold.
We know firsthand that it is entirely possible for a woman to carve out a path for herself without the help of women in positions of power. We also know that it is entirely unnecessary. There is no hesitation on our end to lift other women up, nor should there be from any other females in high places. There is a huge danger in fanning the flames of resentment and competition. Every day, our bodies, our livelihoods and even our rights are threatened by middle-aged men in power. Furthermore, our victories are ridiculed and consistently opposed by those exact men who are maintaining a status quo that exists to hold all others back. We cannot keep putting up with relentless discriminatory restrictions placed on us in retaliation to our brave steps forward. We need to take back the standards and redefine them for ourselves, together. We don't require assistance from men in setting the bar. We set the bar higher than they could ever hope to. We want to prove, through positive influence, that professional growth and economic independence is possible for women and we want to show that it isn't without sacrifice or mistakes. Since day one, we've chosen to be transparent about our flaws as leaders. Our VIPER Girls have seen us stand up for ourselves and soar. They've also seen us fumble and deal with the fallout. In order for us to evolve together, we need to show one another that we don't have to be perfect to build a beautiful world. If the world were perfect, it would never be beautiful.
This is what we've always believed in... And maybe that's how we were always able to believe in ourselves. We started our company in our early twenties with only fifteen hundred dollars. In the last three years we have dominated the nightlife industry and gained clientele that is unmatched. We understand, now more than ever, the impact women are capable of if we support and provide agency for each other. If we can thrive in the male-dominated business environment, we can certainly work to fix it. We will expand our reach and bring insurmountable change. Our futures can be reimagined and renegotiated. We can do it, together. We must.